Sunrisers bowlers thrive on canny plans and skilful execution
In the two matches they had played before Monday, Sunrisers Hyderabad's bowlers had managed just six wickets. On Sunday their captain David Warner was clear that his bowlers had "missed the mark" in those two matches, away against Royal Challengers Bangalore before hosting Kolkata Knight Riders. As the sole winless team remaining in IPL 2016, Sunrisers were under pressure to get it right at home on Monday night against Mumbai Indians.
After his side's swift disintegration when batting first against the Knight Riders, Warner was happy to allow Rohit Sharma's Mumbai to set a target. Sunrisers' bowlers thus assumed the responsibility of getting the team off to a good start, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar provided the perfect first over. He bowled a probing Test match line to Martin Guptill, finding the outside edge though to Naman Ojha with a ball that straightened, to ensure that the New Zealander's IPL debut lasted just four balls.
Bhuvneshwar's opening partner was Barinder Sran, who had hit the headlines during the limited-overs series in Australia earlier this year for his canny changes of pace and potent yorkers. In his first over, the left-arm quick offered width, which Parthiv Patel slapped for a four.
As Sran commenced his second over, Mumbai sat at 12 for 1 in three overs and Parthiv was desperate to up the ante. Sran offered up three wides in the over. The first was an intended slower delivery that drifted down the leg side. The second was a short delivery which the umpire deemed too high. The third was a short, slower delivery outside the off stump which floated over the tram line, and which the umpire was perhaps harsh to call a wide.
In between, Parthiv hit Sran for two fours - a pull and a straight loft over the bowler's head off a fuller delivery. But Sran kept his emotions in check. He had watched Parthiv charge down the pitch earlier only to swing and miss. He finished the over with a lovely back-of-the-hand, loopy slower ball that fooled Parthiv before crashing into his stumps.
Sunrisers went on to capitalise on the early gains. Rohit Sharma ran himself out to start the eighth over and at the halfway mark Mumbai were in a desperate spot at 58 for 3. From there, Sunrisers were ruthless in maintaining their advantage. Sran returned for an over in the eleventh and directed a short ball at the ribs of Englishman Jos Buttler, who could only glove it to Ojha behind the wicket.
Left-arm spinner Bipul Sharma, playing his first game of the season, used opposing batsmen's anxiety to his advantage by cleverly pulling back his length whenever Ambati Rayudu charged him. He also varied his pace smartly to give away just 14 runs off his first three overs.
Before they reached a point of no return, Mumbai's batsmen decided to go for the slog. But even when Krunal Pandya and Rayudu looted 26 runs in the 14th over off Bipul, the rest of the Sunrisers bowlers held steady. Warner was smart with his bowling changes and consciously left Bangladesh left-armer Mustafizur Rahman for the death overs, with 'the Fizz' working out the perfect plan for the right-left pairing of Rayudu and Krunal.
For Rayudu, Mustafizur pushed mid-on back while cover and mid-off were kept in the circle. When Krunal was on strike, point was pulled back into the circle. The plan was clear: Mustafizur would bowl full-length cutters, yorkers and mix it up with his slower deliveries. Even when Rayudu tried to back out and make room to hit inside out over the inner circle, Mustafizur pitched the ball short of a length and fast, leaving the batsman in a helpless position. Only five runs came in the 17th over and Mustafizur had begun the process of stalling the momentum that Mumbai had generated in the 14th over.
At the start of the 18th, a fatiguing Rayudu played a tired drive against an angled, fuller delivery outside off from Sran into the hands of Moises Henriques at point. Hardik Pandya joined his elder brother, but the siblings were pushed into a corner by the accuracy and skills of Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur for the final two overs.
Throttling the opposition towards the end of the innings was something Sunrisers' bowlers did well last season. On this day, the Sunrisers bowlers took advantage of a vulnerable Mumbai batting unit which had been thoroughly exposed so far in the tournament. They did so courtesy a well-executed all-round bowling effort. Surely captain Warner would agree that his bowlers were on the mark this time.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo